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Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005--Motion to Proceed

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, today we will vote on the motion to proceed to S. 147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005. This legislation was passed by the Indian Affairs Committee on March 9, 2005. The bill is similar to a bill reported by the Committee during the 108th Congress that was not brought before the full Senate.

S. 147 was developed to provide Native Hawaiians with a mechanism for self-governance and self-determination, which the bill's sponsors believe would protect from legal challenges a variety of programs and services currently in place for the benefit of Native Hawaiians. To achieve this goal, the bill would establish a process that would permit Native Hawaiians to organize a sovereign entity that would have a legal relationship with the United States similar to that which exists today between the United States and federally recognized Indian tribes.

I recognize that this legislation has been offered in response to many legitimate concerns expressed by the members of the Hawaii delegation and the State's Governor. The leaders of the State of Hawaii are attempting to ensure that a longstanding agreement between the Federal Government and Hawaii will not be jeopardized by litigants determined to undermine certain aspects of that agreement relating to Native Hawaiians. That does not change the fact that I have serious doubts about the wisdom of this legislation.

The sponsors reached an agreement in the 108th Congress that they would be afforded an opportunity to bring the bill to the Senate floor during this Congress. To fulfill that agreement, in my capacity as the chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I have worked to ensure that the legislation would be reported by the committee. I will also support the motion to proceed to the bill's consideration because of the agreement that was reached in the last Congress. I would like the record to reflect clearly, though, that I am unequivocally opposed to this bill and that I will not support its passage should cloture be invoked.

Again, I do know how important this legislation is to the Senators from Hawaii and certainly to the very capable Governor of the 50th State. I am very much aware that one of the purposes of this legislation is to insulate current Native Hawaiian programs from constitutional attack in the courts, and I am sympathetic to that purpose. I commit to the Senators and the Governor that I remain willing to work with them to address the fundamental legal concerns facing their State. I also recognize the efforts made by Senator Akaka to address some of the criticisms that have been leveled at this legislation. However, I still have a number of significant concerns with this measure.

Foremost among these concerns is that, if enacted, S. 147 would result in the formation of a sovereign government for Native Hawaiian people. I am sure that the sponsors have good intentions, but I cannot turn away from the fact that this bill would lead to the creation of a new nation based exclusively--not primarily, not in part, but exclusively--on race. In fact, any person with even a drop of Hawaiian blood would qualify to vote on the establishment of this new, legislatively created entity that would then negotiate with the Federal Government of the United States and the State of Hawaii on potentially unlimited topics.

As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated in its recent report recommending against passage of S. 147, this bill would ``discriminate on the basis of race'' and ``further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.'' This is unacceptable to me, and it is unacceptable, I am sure, to most other citizens of this Nation who agree that we must continue our struggle to become and remain one people--all equal, all Americans.

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